Tottenham Hotspur

Pain will not halt Son Heung-min’s quest to extend China’s ‘Koreaphobia’

Fans were understandably alarmed to see Son Heung-min staggering around a Seoul pitch late in Thursday’s 2026 World Cup qualifier, even though South Korea was already up 4-0 against Singapore, considering the injuries sustained at Tottenham.

The rivalry between club and nation is well-known to the Spurs and its former Australian mana

ger, Ange Postecoglou, as well as South Korea’s coach, Jürgen Klinsmann. Though Son wants to play as much as possible, Postecoglou is unlikely to be the first Tottenham manager to regret that South Korea utilized him more sparingly.

“I am not the only one hurting out there. Everyone plays with some bumps and bruises,” said Son, who had earlier scored one of his trademark curling goals from the edge of the area. “Playing for the national team is a tremendous honour that I’ve always dreamed about. And we have to create our own path to the World Cup. I can’t just give up just because I am hurt.”

Such sentiments are music to the ears of Klinsmann. He still has doubters in Seoul and fans in north London but he may lose a few when he calls up his captain for the Asian Cup in January, a tournament South Korea have not won since 1960 and one the German has asked to be judged on.

Son will accomplish that and more this week in Shenzhen if he was ready to play despite some discomfort against Singapore. Prior to that, there is still a big game on Tuesday.One of Asia’s most intense rivalries is that between China and South Korea, which is made even more fascinating by its historical one-sidedness.

China is on its way to making its 11th consecutive World Cup appearance—a streak only surpassed by Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and Spain—while the Taeguk Warriors have only made one previous appearance, in 2002, and lost all three games without scoring. China has only prevailed twice in the 36 meetings between the two sides. The word originated in Chinese media due to the dominance of the east side of the Yellow Sea.

“Koreaphobia” is a word that people in Seoul love to use and repeat.

South Korea lost their first match in a low-key competition in 2010 because they were missing their European stars, but their second match stood out. It happened in Changsha, during the World Cup qualification process. At the time, Seoul and Beijing’s off-field ties were so tense that the South Korea Football Association asked its Chinese counterpart to ensure the safety of visiting spectators. The celebrations continued late into the night after China’s well-deserved 1-0 victory—one of their best outcomes—in a tough environment.

On and off the field, there is a deep and complicated rivalry between Japan and South Korea, but winning on the grand stage over South Korea is truly gratifying. Although supporters of South Korea relish their dominance over China, a third defeat in the previous ten encounters would put an end to the Koreaphobia movement and be detrimental to Klinsmann’s career. He hasn’t faced a more difficult test since taking charge in February.

South Korea has a stronger team now than they did six years ago, and Son is not the only player performing at the top levels.In addition to Kim Min-jae of Bayern Munich and Lee Kang-in of Paris Saint-Germain adding style and stability, Hwang Hee-chan of Wolves also scored against Singapore.

Now Wu Lei has returned from Espanyol, China do not have any players in Europe but their squad contains lots of experience and a Serbian coach, Aleksandar Jankovic, who has been in the country for five years. As the Chinese Super League, which has just finished an encouraging season, goes through something of a reset, there are concerns about the current standards. China cannot match the South Koreans in terms of talent but the work

rate, the physical challenge, and the desire will all be present. The Reds’ 2-1 victory in Thailand on Thursday was marked by a lot of aggression and set them up for the next round. Son and South Korea, however, will probably face some criticism both on and off the field.

According to Tottenham’s talisman, South Korea can switch things up when necessary. They might try to annoy and frustrate us as a tactic. We can win as long as we can play the way we do. You shouldn’t be scared to play against China. Son might not be scared, but many people in north London will be.

India’s biggest game in years

Much has been written about the progression made by India in recent years but there cannot be much of a better illustration than this: almost 13 years to the day after losing 9-1 to Kuwait, India went to Kuwait City in a vital World Cup qualifier and won 1-0. Beating their main rivals for the second spot in the group means the path to the final round of qualification is wide open now for the Blue Tigers for the first time ever.

The unofficial athletic capital of India, Bhubaneswar, in the state of Odisha, is where they now play Qatar. While a draw would be a respectable outcome and not shocking, a victory over the Asian champions would make a powerful statement.

Igor Stimac, the coach, stated, “Kuwait are our strongest opponents for the second spot.” “We have a clear idea of what we need to do in the remaining games after we start with a win against them.”

India has come a long way to believe that they can win a match against Carlos Queiroz’s team, who recently crushed Afghanistan 8-1.

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